The virus that causes common cold sores may be linked with memory loss and further study could eventually help prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers tested a group of people in New York City for five common low-grade infections: oral and genital herpes, cytomegalovirus, the respiratory form of chlamydia, and the stomach bug Helicobacter pylori, reports Press Association.
Those with higher levels of infection in their blood were more likely to have cognitive problems than people who were not exposed to the viruses.
Researchers found the link between the infections and memory loss was strongest among women, those who lack health insurance and people who do not exercise.
"While this association needs to be further studied, the results could lead to ways to identify people at risk of cognitive impairment and eventually lower that risk," Dr. Mira Katan, author of the study, told NBC.
"For example, exercise and childhood vaccinations against viruses could decrease the risk for memory problems later in life.”
The researchers say that more studies need to be done before a definite link between the viruses and cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer's disease, can be determined.
"We cannot make any conclusions that infections will lead to cognitive problems, but we think there is a connection," Dr. Katan said. "If a causal effect is established, it could help in the treatment of dementia and strokes."
The results, released Monday, are published in the March 26 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.